As a trend, home gardening is explosive. TerraFarms are a space-efficient choice that use no pesticides and 97% less water. The Ogarden system is completely hassle-free and can grow up to 100 herbs and vegetables a month. However, home gardening isn’t practical everywhere — especially in colder countries. Engineers at the German Aerospace Center are now helping snowed-in communities garden, with an Antarctic farm that can grow veggies below zero.
Called the Eden-ISS, the farm exists inside a climate-controlled shipping container. The greenhouse relies on a technique called vertical farming, in which food grows on trays or hanging modules under LEDs instead of natural sunlight.
The farm is only 135 square feet and can grow vegetables in huge amounts. Amazing, considering the only means of transportation for produce deliveries is by ship or plane. Researchers plan to grow some 30 to 50 different plant species. In short, the new technology is beating the odds.
Over the past 100 years, Arctic temperatures have increased at nearly twice the global average, making it possible to grow crops in once-desolate places like Yellowknife in Canada and Greenland.
On a more impressive note, temperatures in the area can plunge as low as -100 degrees Fahrenheit. I didn’t even know it was humanly possible to exist under such conditions. Lesson learned: never underestimate the power of innovation.
Wild tigers are resurfacing in Kazakhstan after a 70-year absence and it seems Italy may be experiencing something quite similar. Wild wolves, a symbol of the country, are making a comeback in the outskirts of Rome after nearly a century.
“This is the first time in more than 100 years that wolves have been found living near Rome,” [said professor of natural sciences] Alessia De Lorenzis.
“We think they probably arrived here from the area around Lake Bracciano, north of Rome, where wolves have always existed, even when the species was pushed towards extinction,”
Biologists spotted the wild wolves roaming a reserve in Castel di Guido. They are of no apparent threat to livestock, as they survive on a diet of wild boars. Researchers have blamed their initial demise on hunting.
Killing wolves was encouraged in Italy until the 1970s, by which time only 100 or so individuals remained in Italy. But the species was given protected status in 1971 and has since gradually recovered.
There are around 1,500 – 2,000 wolves inhabiting Italy, with others bordering France. French farmers have claimed that the slender beasts have been attacking their sheep. But then again, perhaps it’s time we listen more to the animals’ needs and less to ours. Based on studies of animal extinction or endangerment, we could surmise it isn’t really the animals crying wolf, is it?
At present, some 795 million people don’t get the proper nourishment they need. While the number is staggering, only a few farms and soup kitchens are taking action. This Australian family is playing its part, feeding dozens of families with produce from its 1-acre permaculture farm.
At Limestone Permaculture Farm, they grow organic produce, raise sheep goats and chickens, keep bees, and even build with recycled materials. Much of the farm is powered by energy from wood, water, and the sun.
In essence, permaculture pays homage to natural ecosystems and how they function. Instead of growing a single crop in large-scale, permaculture integrates symbiosis so different plants may flourish. Owners of Limestone, Nici and Brett Cooper, believe that permaculture is the future of food.
“We feel there has been an awakening across our beautiful country, self-reliance is on the rise again; urban and rural homesteading has people taking their food and energy supply back into their own hands.”
To encourage the unique farming technique, the Coopers offer workshops, internships, and permaculture design programs to tourists. As it seems, permaculture is opening doors for rural communities and, in turn, also helping out the needy.
Challenging regular sources of energy such as solar, wind, and hydropower are some unusual contenders. Thanks to the growing innovativeness of professionals and amateurs alike, it’s possible to harvest energy from walking and even sweating. Now, scientists are harvesting biofuel from kelp forests growing in the Pacific Ocean.
Kelp is transformed into biofuel by a process called thermochemical liquefaction. The kelp is dried out, and the salt is washed away. Then it’s turned into bio-oil through a high-temperature, high-pressure conversion process.
Biofuels are sustainable and non-polluting, making them great contenders against fossil fuels. Extracting the product from kelp is low-maintenance and unbelievably fast. Asian countries, in particular, are well-versed in the kelp industry, growing it primarily as a food source. However, this is where American startups may be biting off more than they can chew.
“They already have a pre-existing infrastructure that’s pretty sophisticated for growing and harvesting. It’s harvesting for food and other products… And that’s a much better starting point than small companies in the U.S. that try to go from ground zero to a transportation fuel.”
Nonetheless, open-ocean farming is very much a possibility in terms of biofuel production. With 71% of the planet’s surface water-covered, utilizing oceans for the benefit of the environment isn’t such a bad idea.
For urban communities, the relationship between humans and animals has been, for the most part, give and take. Where turkeys (or rather, their droppings) contribute to bio-fuel, concerned citizens have set up bee farms in vacant lots. Now seeing a rise in hedgehog road deaths in London, engineer Michel Birkenwald is creating special highways for the critters.
“It’s implying that hedgehogs are basically moving into our towns and cities,” [Emily] Wilson [of Hedgehog Streets] says. “They’re quite sturdy, and able to live alongside us quite well, as long as we make space for them and link green spaces together.”
Birkenwald and his animal-loving posse drill wall holes for free, allowing the prickly pedestrians to make safe crossing. Over the years, the real-life Sonic population has dwindled by 50% due to unwelcoming agricultural procedures. As compost-dwellers, “cleaner” farms don’t bode well for the spiky natives. Despite his life-saving deeds, Birkenwald is as humble as anyone.
“I am just an average guy who decided to help one of our most adorable mammals,” he says.
We’ll do anything for the cute and powerless.
When it comes to vehicles of the future, it seems the possibilities are limitless. Planes, in particular, have broken boundaries — running on electric or on no motor at all. Many advancements are still under wraps, or completely theoretical, save for Qantas’ latest shocking achievement. The airliner successfully piloted a trans-Pacific flight on 10% eco-fuel derived from mustard seeds.
The biofuel is reportedly capable of reducing carbon emissions by over 80 percent as compared to regular jet fuel. This means that the blended fuel used in… [the] flight should have resulted in a 7 percent reduction, which works out to 18,000 kg (39,683 lb) in reduced carbon emissions.
The Carinata mustard plant makes a perfect contender as the world’s leading aviation biofuel. Able to thrive under unsuitable conditions, the little-seed-that-could also improves soil quality and prevents erosion.
“Our work with Agrisoma will enable Australian farmers to start growing today for the country’s biofuel needs of the future,” says Qantas International CEO, Alison Webster.
Qantas’ ultimate goal is to maintain a near million acres of Carinata and produce 200 million liters of biofuel annually. If you’ve ever doubted the impact of agriculture, you may now consider switching gears.
The detrimental effects of pesticides have many scrambling for alternatives. Be it through pest-sniffing dogs or banning the substance altogether, there has yet to be an affordable and simple solution. With an abundance of arable land in its countrysides, England is taking a different approach. Farms are experimenting with wildflowers, hoping to naturally boost pest predators and alleviate the need for chemical pesticides.
Using wildflower margins to support insects including hoverflies, parasitic wasps and ground beetles has been shown to slash pest numbers in crops and even increase yields.
Harvesters will use GPS technology to monitor their crops throughout full cycles. Where nature may falter, machines step in — primarily to avoid predator outbreaks. We all know plagues are better off immortalized in history books.
“There is undoubtedly scope to reduce pesticide use – that is a given,” said Bill Parker, director of research at the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board. “There will be probably quite a lot of years when pests are not a problem and pesticide use could be vastly reduced.”
Despite the experiment’s promising nature, the change demands copious amounts of time and effort. Still, many advocating for a much needed cultural shift in agricultural industries are likely to see it through.
Thanks to over-harvesting, over-fishing, and overdoing pretty much everything, alternative food sources are all the rage. In the near future, the dory in your fish taco could be lab-grown. Your oatmeal may even be 100% renewable. And, if Chinese scientists prove it a success, rice will flourish in saltwater and create enough food for 200 million people.
The rice was grown in a field near the Yellow Sea coastal city of Qingdao in China’s eastern Shandong province. 200 different types of the grain were planted to investigate which would grow best in salty conditions.
Per hectare, scientists predicted an output of 4.5 tons. Much to their surprise, and because nature is cooler than we think, the yield hit 9.3 tons. With 1 million square kilometers of previously unused high-saline land now on the market, rice production could rise by 20%.
“If a farmer tries to grow some types of saline-tolerant rice now, they most likely will get 1,500 kilograms per hectare. That is just not profitable and not even worth the effort.” [says team leader Yuan Longping.]
A kilogram of the stuff goes for around $8, a whopping eight times more costly than regular rice. Still, some six tons have already made their way into kitchens. Beyond everything, the price is rice!
As of late, dogs have been a great service both to humans and the environment. Whether participating in search-and-rescue missions or restoring entire forests, we can no longer underestimate man’s best friend. Just now stepping into the spotlight is Chili the Belgian shepherd, who has become the world’s first certified insect-detector.
“Chili is the newest member of our scouting team … she’s a registered working dog trained to find pepper weevil,” said Cam Lyons, an integrated pest management scout at NatureFresh. “As far as we know, she’s the only one in the world looking for this pest in a greenhouse.”
At only two-years-old, Chili has big shoes (or paws) to fill, as she is responsible for protecting an entire population of bell peppers. NatureFresh’s decision to fight destructive bugs with canines stemmed from a desire not to use harmful pesticides.
“We start on the outside of the greenhouse actually, I’ll take her and we’ll search the perimeter of the greenhouses,” said Tina Heide… Chili’s handler. “I’ll have her sniff out walls, sniff our floors, we do skids like packing crates, boxes anything we come across.”
Considering the highly effective detection skills of most dogs, greenhouses may want to consider hiring a four-legged farmer.
As a vital part of the food chain, bees deserve more attention than they are currently receiving. Though devices such as the BuzzBox are making beekeeping more efficient, they aren’t addressing the steep decline in bee populations. Stepping up to the plate, the U.K. is finally supporting a total ban on bee-harming pesticides.
“The weight of evidence now shows the risks neonicotinoids pose to our environment, particularly to the bees and other pollinators which play such a key part in our £100 billion food industry, is greater than previously understood.
“I believe this justifies further restrictions on their use. We cannot afford to put our pollinator populations at risk.” [said environment secretary Michael Gove.]
The monetary value of pollinating insects in the U.K. has shot up to nearly £680 million per annum. At that price point, it’s difficult to believe that bees are simply an expendable asset in nature. In the long run, pesticides aren’t only a threat to wildlife, but to crop consumers altogether.
“We need to encourage farmers to move away from reliance on pesticides as the solution to the many problems that industrial monoculture cropping create.”
Looks like permaculture farming may be the way to go.